|Over 40 Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli forces
Multiple clashes erupted during the week between Palestinians and Israeli forces in various parts of the West Bank, leading to the injury of 43 Palestinians, almost the same as the weekly average since the beginning of the year. Over 60 per cent of the injured received treatment after inhaling tear gas, and the rest were hit by rubber-coated metal bullets or physically assaulted.
On 6 May, Palestinian worshippers clashed with Israeli police forces deployed at a gate leading to Al Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem, after being prevented from accessing the mosque. During the confrontations, Israeli forces shot tear gas canisters, sound grenades and rubber-coated metal bullets to disperse the crowds, injuring 15 Palestinians, including four children. In another incident also in East Jerusalem, two Israeli policemen were injured by Palestinians who threw stones at their vehicle, while traveling in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
The regular protests against the Barrier, settlement expansion and access restrictions continued during the week. Two of them, in Kafr Kadum (Qalqiliya) and Nabi Saleh (Ramallah) evolved into confrontations with Israeli forces, resulting in the injury of eight Palestinians.
During the reporting period Israeli forces carried out a total of 82 search-and-arrest operations across the West Bank and arrested 127 Palestinians, respectively, 8 and 34 per cent above the weekly average since the beginning of 2014. Two of these operations, in Qalqiliya and Salfit cities, on 9 and 11 May, respectively, triggered clashes with local residents resulting in the injury of eight Palestinians, including an infant.
On 12 May, Israeli forces conducted a military training near Jinba village (Hebron) in the Masafer Yatta area, in an area designated as a closed area for military training (Fire Zone 918). Approximately 50 dunums of land planted with wheat were damaged during the exercise. There are around 1,200 Palestinians living in 14 communities across the Masafer Yatta area; in 2012, the Israeli authorities stated their intention to “remove” nine of these communities from the area and allow residents only limited access for cultivation and grazing.
Three Palestinians injured and around 50 trees damaged by Israeli settlers
A total of seven Israeli settler attacks were reported this week, two of which led to the injury of three Palestinians and five resulted in damage to Palestinian property. Another three incidents during the week resulted in damage to settler property by Palestinians.
The two settler attacks resulting in injuries involved the physical assault of two Palestinians, including a boy (aged 15), in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron City (H2) on 9 May, and of a shepherd near Yitav settlement (Jericho) on 11 May.
The incident resulting in the largest damage to property took place near Bat ‘Ayin settlement on 11 May, when Israeli settlers cut down 50 grape vines and five olive trees belonging to farmers from Beit Ummar village (Hebron). Farmers cultivating land in the vicinity of this settlement are regularly exposed to intimidation and violence, which has resulted in the loss of land and undermined agricultural practices. Since the beginning of 2014, OCHA recorded six incidents involving settlers from Bat ‘Ayin which resulted in either injuries or property damage.
The other reported incidents involving property damage include vandalism (spraying graffiti) against a house in the Old City of Jerusalem; damage of barley crops planted in the Khallet an Nahla area (Bethlehem); and stone throwing at Palestinian-plated vehicles.
On 12 May, a group of residents from Burin village (Nablus) apprehended three Israeli settlers travelling on two vehicles, who reportedly entered the village by mistake, and subsequently burnt one of the cars. The settlers were held for less than an hour (no physical assault involved), following which, they were released by officers from the Palestinian District Coordination Office (DCO), who handed them over to Israeli forces.
Also this week, according to the Israeli media, two Israelis, including a woman, were physically assaulted, but not injured, by Israeli forces, when trying to enter the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on 6 May. In addition on three occasions, Palestinians threw stones at settler vehicles in East Jerusalem and Ramallah governorate, causing damage to three cars.
Eleven structures demolished; 27 people displaced
A total of eleven Palestinian structures were demolished this week by the Israeli authorities, in the Area C Bedouin community of Tell al Khashaba in Nablus on 12 May. The affected structures included seven residential structures, of which five were tents and two under construction, one water cistern and three mobile latrines funded by an international donor. The tents, which were donated in response to last week’s demolitions in the community, were later confiscated. A total of 27 people, including 18 children, were displaced for the second time in two weeks. This community is entirely located in an area declared by the Israeli authorities as a closed military zone. Since 2012, 46 structures have been demolished in the community, over 60 per cent of which were demolished this year.
Earlier on 5 May, the Palestinian authorities demolished seven structures, including six uninhabited residential structures and one unused animal shelter, in an Area C part of Jericho city, reportedly for encroachment onto privately leased land, affecting 40 people, including 26 children.
In addition, the Israeli authorities issued demolition orders against a water cistern and a retaining wall in Qusra village (Nablus); and photographed donor-funded caravans in Jabal al Baba community (Jerusalem). The latter is one of 18 communities (2,800 people) located in the eastern Jerusalem Governorate, threatened by an Israeli “relocation” plan. Other Bedouin communities across Area C are also under risk of forcible transfer due to similar plans.
Relative calm in military activities
The relative calm recorded last week in terms of military activities continued during the reporting period. While Palestinian armed groups fired a number of rockets towards southern Israel, all landed in open areas resulting in no casualties or damage to property. No Israeli airstrikes or shelling within Gaza were reported during the week. In one incident on 7 May, however, Israeli forces opened fire at members of an armed group present in the vicinity of the fence, east of Deir al Balah, injuring one of them.
During this period, Israeli forces also continued to enforce restrictions on Palestinian access to areas near Gaza’s perimeter fence, including by opening warning fire at civilians approaching the area. One of these incidents, on 11 May, resulted in the injury of a civilian collecting rubble in the vicinity of the former Erez Industrial Zone, northwest of Beit Hanoun. Also, in two separate incidents this week Israeli forces detained four unarmed Palestinians east of Al Bureij camp, while they were reportedly attempting to cross into Israel looking for work, and conducted at least one land leveling operation east of Khan Younis, 200 meters inside Gaza.
Additionally, on at least three occasions this week, Israeli naval forces chased and opened warning fire towards fishing boats approaching or exceeding the six nautical mile (NM) fishing limit. One of these cases ended in the injury of two fishermen aged 18 and 19, after two fishing boats trying to flee from the area collided.
Two Palestinians executed following death sentences
The Ministry of Interior in Gaza stated on 7 May that two Palestinian men were executed following their conviction by a court of “treason and collaboration with foreign hostile entities”. One of the cases involved a 30-year-old man from Khan Younis executed by firing squad and the other a 41-year-old man from Gaza hanged in Al Katibah Central Prison in Gaza. The last execution implemented in the Gaza Strip following a death sentence was on October 2013. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), since 2007, the government in Gaza has implemented 19 death sentences, ten of which were implemented for collaboration with foreign bodies and the other nine for criminal offences (mainly murders). None of the sentences were ratified by the Palestinian President, as stipulated by the Palestinian law.
Over 5,000 waiting to cross into Egypt
On 7 May, the Egyptian authorities re-closed the Rafah Crossing, after three days of limited opening. The latter allowed some 800 people, mainly pilgrims, to leave Gaza, and about 550 others, including pilgrims and people stranded in Egypt, to return to Gaza. According to the Border and Crossing Authority in Gaza, over 5,000 people are currently registered to cross into Egypt, including patients, students and holders of visas to third countries.
Increased fuel shortages
The chronic fuel shortage in the Gaza Strip has been gradually exacerbated in recent weeks. The Fuel Stations Owners Association reported this week that most Gaza’s 180 fuel stations were forced to either close or operate for a few hours a day, after exhausting their fuel stocks. The increased shortages could be attributed to the closures of the Kerem Shalom Crossing on the occasion of Israeli holidays (Passover, Remembrance Day and Independence Day), as well as to coordination issues between the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and Ramallah. Since the shutdown of the illegal tunnels in July 2013, Kerem Shalom became the only channel for the supply of fuel to Gaza.
The Gaza Power Plant (GPP) continues to operate at half of its working capacity (two turbines out of four) producing 60 Megawatts (MW), due to a shortage of funding needed for the purchase of fuel. Since December 2013, the GPP is operating on the basis of fuel donated by the government of Qatar, which is expected to be exhausted by early July 2014. The plant needs around 16 million liters of fuel per month in order to run at full capacity producing around 120MWs. According to the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO), the daily schedule of power cuts is currently up to 12 hours per day, forcing people to relay on unsafe methods to light their houses.